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Honors reflect real solutions

When I opened my agency newsletter this week, I saw an article that most folks probably will never see.

This was an article about the Ironton-Lawrence County CAO’s Family Medical Center just receiving the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval as a “Primary Care Medical Home.”

Not only did the Family Medical Center receive such an accreditation, it is the first ambulatory care center in the State of Ohio to be certified by the Joint Commission as a “Primary Care Medical Home.”

The Family Medical Center has maintained accreditation as an ambulatory primary care center since 1999, and was certified in behavioral health care in September 2012.

Until recently, I, like most, would not really know the significance of such certifications. However, having been deeply involved in the development of the medical campus to replace our closed hospital over the past 10 plus years, I have grown to know and respect what such an accreditation represents.

It means totally independent Joint Commission surveyor teams, made up of physicians in diverse specialties, health care administrators, and auditors, and operations managers come on-site for three full days to review every aspect of patient care based on Joint Commission’s hundreds of quality standards.

The surveys are unannounced, which means the Family Medical Centers are prepared to show that our patients receive the highest quality medical care at all times.

However, there is also another critical component to this certification, the new concept of a “Primary Care Medical Home.” Again, probably a bunch of words to most, but this is the national movement among today’s medical providers in an effort to provide more efficient and effective medical care.

As we have found in providing supportive services to an individual through the County One-Stop Services Center, it is becoming all too apparent that you can’t provide medical services in a vacuum.

For example, if you see a doctor and he or she diagnoses you with a medical problem, you cannot take care of that medical problem unless you can have access to needed prescriptions, can afford food to control health conditions like diabetes, live in a home that is safe and warm, and at times have access to specialty medical care.

So it is the goal of the “Primary Care Medical Home” to not only link the patient to those needed services, but to case manage that patient through this sometimes complex maze.

Is it surprising that Lawrence County has the first Joint Commission certified “Primary Care Medical Home” in the State of Ohio? No, because the CAO and the Lawrence County community often are cited as having best practices in many areas of services and programs.

Just to name a few off the top of my head, state and national awards have been given to our economic development initiatives, superfund and brownfield cleanups, housing developments, solid waste district programs, along with cleanup and beautification efforts.

Likewise, our community was one in 30 in the nation chosen as a federal empowerment zone among the ranks of New York City and Chicago.

Our Lawrence County One-Stop Center, because of its ongoing demonstrated successes, was recently solicited by the State of Ohio to partner in an effort to compete for a U.S. Department of Labor “Pay for Success” demonstration initiative in an effort to create a newer, more efficient, and more effective national system to get disadvantaged workers back into productive employment and lives.

Why Lawrence County? Because Lawrence County, as tough as it has been, has in most cases been able to get all the critical parties to work together for the improvement of our community.

The Family Medical Centers operate as a nonprofit operation under the direction and supervision of the CAO board. The board represents an equal partnership of elected officials, the business community, and the disadvantaged by its nationally dictated board structure.

It is no surprise when you have such a forum where those parties can come together and work for the community good, you can often times begin to come up with real solutions.


Ralph Kline is the assistant executive director of development and planning for the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization.